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Self Realization

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Self Realization?

In the Diamond Approach, self-realization involves the complete realization of all aspects of Being. Each aspect manifests, its issues are understood, and it finally becomes a permanent attainment, as segments of the ego are abandoned. 

— A. H. Almaas

Self-realization is a manifestation of a certain human development, a development tantamount to the full maturation of humanness which a human being may attain or arrive at. 

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Self Realization

Continuity of Presence as a Discriminated and Patterned Flow

In the deeper stages of self-realization, and especially in the experience of primordial nondual presence, the flow of presence is completely coemergent with action. Action flows out completely inseparable from presence, for the body and mind are inseparable manifestations of presence. In some sense, there is no such thing on this dimension as action, for there is only the continuity of presence, as a discriminated and patterned flow. Some of these patterns we ordinarily call actions, some we call feelings, and some we call states, but they are all nothing but presence, the expression of the never-ending creativity of presence. In other words, action here is ontological creativity. The notion of presence as a center of initiative and action breaks down on this level of experience, for the center is completely inseparable from, and in fact totally coemergent with, the totality of the self. There is much more depth and implications of this view, but this is not the place to expand upon it. We have given a brief account of the inner flow of the self in relation to action and creativity in order to discuss Kohut’s notion of the tension arc more completely.

A Certain Human Development

More specifically, self-realization is a manifestation of a certain human development, a development tantamount to the full maturation of humanness, which a human being may attain or arrive at.

How Do We Stabilize Our Realization?

The Work we do here involves both realizing the truth of reality and living according to that truth. The time we spend learning to function with presence fine tunes our consciousness. We learn the value of our realization by living the life of our realization, and in time our actions will embody our awake attention. It is our way of stabilizing and establishing our realization. We can live our lives with a clear and strong sense of presence. We learn to strengthen our spine not only by understanding what is true but also by acting in a genuine way. We perform our tasks even though we are aware of feeling inadequate and lonely. We practice attention in presence while we work, focusing our attention primarily on the tasks. Even though we are aware of our emotions and issues, we don’t waste our energy analyzing them. If we are aware of our inner state without blocking it in any way, our presence will continue transforming.

How Does Life Express Its Joy?

The certainty of realization does not mean there will be no more issues to work through. The certainty means that when the issues arise, you recognize they are issues; when vulnerabilities arise, you recognize they are vulnerabilities. And at the same time, you realize that what you are is not this vulnerability, even though that is part of what is arising in the moment. The certainty of what you are actually makes it easier for issues to arise because they don’t challenge you as deeply as when you are uncertain. So freedom includes working through further issues, which become opportunities to recognize yourself in new ways. When our self-realization is certain, life will continue to flow with discoveries, not because we are searching for them, but because that is how life expresses its joy and fullness—by spontaneously manifesting new revelations. In primary awakening, reality is awake to its primordial nature. If we recognize, respect, and heed this awakening, it will keep unfurling itself to disclose more and more of reality. All other awakenings, realizations, and enlightenments are a matter of seeing the further implications of this primary awakening. Living this awakening is lively and fun, it is profound and liberating, and it is endless.

Identity and Self-Realization

Self-realization is identity with the Essence of the self, which is Presence.

Knowing Ourselves by Directly Being Ourselves

In self-realization our experience of ourselves is a pure act of consciousness. We know ourselves by directly being ourselves. All self-images have been rendered transparent and we no longer identify with any construct in the mind. There is no reactivity to past, present or future. There is no effort to be ourselves. There is no interference with our experience, no manipulation, no activity – inner or outer – involved with maintaining our identity. We simply are. We are able to respond, feel, think, act – but from a purely spontaneous and authentic Presence. We are not defensive, not judging ourselves, not trying to live up to any standard. We may also be silent, empty or spacious. We do not have to do anything to be ourselves. We are whole, one, undivided. It is not the wholeness of the harmony of parts, but the wholeness of singlehood. We are one. We are ourselves. We are being. We simply are.

Partial Self-Realization

In other words, the direct methods, like those of Dzogchen and Zen, regardless of how powerful they are, do not have a place for understanding, especially the psychological understanding of the self. Therefore, it is our understanding that they are effective only for the few fortunate individuals with an unusual endowment and/or an unusually harmonious and balanced development of the self. A great deal of preparatory work is necessary for most individuals before they can possess the capacity to experience self-realization and retain it as a permanent condition. The integration of the aspects of Essence, which we have described as supporting self-realization, may be seen as such preparation. However, in the Diamond Approach in particular, this work is not only a preparation, but a partial realization. In other words, elements of self-realization are present in the initial stages of integrating essential presence. So self-realization occurs, then, as a completion of development, and not only a result of preparation. What usually occurs in the Diamond Approach is that very precise understanding about particular issues is possible. This understanding leads to the experience of specific pure manifestations of Essence. Essential experience is not complete self-realization at this point, but it is far more accessible because it is much easier to deal with a particular segment of self-structure than with the whole thing. This experience deepens and expands as more and deeper segments of the self are precisely understood, until it reaches self-realization. One encounters the issues of narcissism specifically at the transition to self-realization, although they also manifest occasionally and generally as part of the personality of the individual.

Realization of the Fullness of Being

Full self-realization means the complete realization of the fullness of Being. By fullness of Being, we mean Being in its totality and completeness, including all of its dimensions and aspects. This is finally realized in the resolution of oral narcissism as the self-realization of nondual Presence.

Self Realization Occurs on All Levels of Our Work

In exploring the boundless dimension of divine love, for the most part we’ve been taking the mystical approach to self-realization. So we know this is one side of our work: we explore our experience in our soul, we find what is our true nature, and this true nature becomes our very identity. We are, then, essential nature; we are divine love; we are the supreme being. But there is then another side to our work: to bring that true nature into the world as a human being. And that’s the side we call personalization. It happens in our work with all the aspects, and in all the dimensions. With each aspect, first you experience it and realize it in your own soul, and then the challenge is how to embody it in the world. And as you continue to work on recognizing your identifications, you go through the empty shell, which leads to self-realization when you fully recognize that true nature is what you are. And then this other process happens, where that true nature becomes personalized as you embody it in the world as a human being. So these two facets—self-realization and personalization—occur on all levels of our work, on the personal level and on each of the boundless dimensions. The personalization process is part of what we call actualization of realization.

Self-Realization and the Need for Support

In order for realization to become a permanent attainment there needs to be support for realization. This is the reason it is possible to achieve a state of self-realization and to lose it -- you don't have the support for it.

Self-Realization Has an Implicit Sense of Meaning

States of self-realization can occur in many dimensions. Self-realization can be on the individual level, on any of the boundless dimensions, or on a non-dual level. The basic element, common to experiences of realization in all the dimensions is a sense of not being concerned about reality, of not being concerned about who you are. There is a sense of certainty about yourself and about your perception of reality. It also manifests as a sense of completeness, as a sense of things making sense, as a sense of having meaning to yourself, to your life and to your world without necessarily knowing what the meaning is. Everything has an implicit sense of meaning, value and preciousness; there is no questioning of it. Your life originates from this sense of meaningfulness, significance, and preciousness that is implicit and not questioned. Your life, your action, your activity and creativity originate from the pure and certain sense of significance to your world and who you are.

Self-Realization is Inhibited by Conceptual Positions

To arrive at self-realization is not a matter of trying to get somewhere; it is not a question of working to actualize a specific state. If we engage in the process of self-realization from the perspective that there is an end-state to realize, we tend to interfere with the process. To attempt to generate or move towards a certain state indicates holding a particular conceptual position.

Self-Realization is Ultimately Self-Annihilation

What we’re seeing here is that self-realization is ultimately self-annihilation. We don’t gain anything. Rather we are going to lose everything. We lose the concepts of our mind, one after another, one category after another, people, objects, values. When all the concepts and categories are gone, only the nonconceptual awareness, which is a field of pure consciousness, remains. This spontaneously dissolves into its underlying ground, absolute nonbeing, total absence of being. This nonbeing, when we recognize it as the ground and inner secret of all of reality, is the night of reality, the inner of the inner. This is the guest.

Self-Realization Requires Understanding for What is True

Realization and liberation require many things: dedication and commitment, love and devotion, awareness and sensitivity. But more than anything else, they require understanding. Understanding is the central faculty needed for liberation, especially when we go very deep in our experience and arrive at subtle places. That is because when we reach the subtlety of our true nature – the real depth – what is left is our understanding. Everything else, in some sense, has dropped away by then. All that is left is our subtle capacity for discriminating what is manifesting, what is true, and what is false.

Stages in the Process of Essential Self-Realization

The process of essential self-realization goes through several stages, each with associated essential states, psychological issues, and resulting wisdom. The conceptualization of these stages depends partly on the teaching one is following, and partly on the focus of study. In the Diamond Approach the teaching is oriented towards the natural and spontaneous revelation of the truth of the Soul as one investigates one’s experience, motivated by the pure love for truth and joy in it. The first naturally occurring stage is that of the discovery of Essence, which is the true nature of the Soul. Essence is discovered directly in experience as a fundamental presence that manifests in many qualities that we call aspects. It is recognized for what it is, and understood as the true resolution for the various existential deficiencies and longings of the ego and its personality. The second stage becomes the objective understanding of the ego and the mind, now using the wisdom available from the presence of Essence. The contrast to Essence provides the mirror in which the personality of ego becomes understood in a precise and clear way. This then makes it possible to move to the third stage, where one’s sense of identity shifts from ego to Essence. The first book of this series focused on the first stage, and the second book on the second. The present book is concerned mostly with the third stage, that of self-realization proper. The issues here are not the various deficiencies, conflicts, and longings of the personality, but those of self and identity. It is a matter of seeing that although Essence is discovered and understood for what it is, there is still identification with ego. At this stage one is dealing with the issue of being an entity experiencing Essence, rather than finding it to be one’s very self and identity.

The Feeling of Self-Realization

The experience self-realization, of knowing oneself as self-pervasive consciousness, is felt experientially as an exquisite sense of intimacy. The self-existing consciousness experiences itself so immediately that it is completely intimate with its reality. The intimacy is complete because there is no mediation in the self’s experience of itself. We feel an exquisite stillness, a peace beyond all description, and a complete sense of being truly ourselves. We are so totally ourselves that we feel directly intimate with every atom of our consciousness, completely intimate with and mixed with our true identity. The contentment is like settling down peacefully at home after eons of restless and agonized wandering. Clarity and peace combine as the feeling of exquisite, contented intimacy, which is totally independent of the particulars of our situation, beyond the conceptual confines of time and space. The peace and contentment do not come from accomplishing anything, nor are they a result of anything. They are part of the actual feeling of being truly ourselves. We are not only intimate with ourselves, but our very presence is intimacy.

What is the Experience of the Body in Full Self-Realization?

In full self-realization we experience the body as a transparent and diaphanous form of Presence. The form is seen to be more superficial than the ontological reality of Presence, which is beyond any form. This experience of the body is not easy to access; it involves a leap of consciousness that generally requires a great deal of inner work such as decades of intense meditation practice.

When Do True States of Realization Occur?

True states of realization occur when you throw away all the teachings. All of the teachings, absolutely. Everything. Then you are investigation itself finding out what you are. You realize that many people have said many things along the way. Somebody said you are an eternal soul, you have to be saved, and you have to believe in Christ. Somebody else said you just need to realize that there is no self. Another person said the true self is the Brahman. Somebody talked about God. And if you really believe that those people are not lying, you start wondering what they’re talking about. Who is right? You need intense sincerity and ruthless courage to discover the truth for yourself. “This person says this and that person says that. I believe that they mean what they say, but how can I say one of them is right and one of them is wrong? And who knows what they mean by what they say anyway?” That is one of the things I discovered when I realized the state of no-self. The state was different from what I thought. I realized that many people go around talking about Buddhist no-self, and they haven’t got the vaguest idea of what it means. What they think is no-self is not what Buddha talked about. When Buddha said there is no self, he also meant there is no table and no house. He didn’t mean that you walk around without a self, but that everything is conceptual. The self is ultimately a concept. This thing or that thing is a concept. But people don’t think that way. They read about no-self and think that after sitting around for a while they will be this person sitting in lotus position with no self. There isn’t anything like that. No-self means you realize that you are not sitting in that lotus position. So we don’t really know what those people meant. At some point you have to achieve an independence of mind, which is the state of aloneness. You have to know intrinsic aloneness, allowing yourself to be free from all influence, independent from anybody, from anywhere, even from your own experience.

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